1. Auction to Benefit Wilson Fund Goes Live on eBay
2. Indy Lights Title Takes Pigot to Next Step toward Goal
3. Pro Mazda’s Urrutia Is Uruguay’s First Motorsports Champion
4. Jamin Stamps USF2000 Title Run with Double Win
5. Grace Autosport’s Paretta Named ‘Game Changer’
1. Auction to Benefit Wilson Fund Goes Live on eBay: The eBay online auction to raise money for the family of late Verizon IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson went live Sept. 14 and is off to a strong start toward organizer Graham Rahal’s goal of raising $1 million.
The first batch of items up for auction is a group of 19 racing helmets – 17 worn by drivers in the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30, along with Townsend Bell’s colorful helmet from the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and the helmet worn by racing legend Mario Andretti when he drove Honda’s “Fastest Seat in Sports” two-seat Indy car at Indianapolis and other events this year.
Wilson died Aug. 24 from a head injury sustained in a race the day before. The Wilson Children’s Fund has been established to benefit Wilson’s widow, Julia, and daughters Jane, 7, and Jessica, 5.
Rahal, the driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and a former teammate of Wilson, is partnering his Graham Rahal Foundation with eBay and online auction facilitator Auction Cause. Through eBay’s direct involvement, transaction fees will be waived and all proceeds will go straight to the Wilson Children’s Fund. To view auction items up for bid, visit http://stores.ebay.com/Celebrity-Charity-Auctions/Justin-Wilson-Memorial.
“Justin was not just an incredible driver, he was an incredible person, teammate and friend. Through this auction, I hope we can raise as much money as possible to help provide for his wife (Julia), Jane and Jessica,” said Rahal.
The current group of helmets is available for bid through 9 p.m. ET Sept. 24. Another five groups of racing and other one-of-a-kind memorabilia will follow until the auction’s conclusion Oct. 26. In addition to Indy car memorabilia, drivers and teams from Formula One, NASCAR, World Endurance Challenge, Global Rallycross and United SportsCar Championship have donated items for auction. Non-racing items include a microphone autographed by The Who’s Roger Daltrey from the iconic rock group’s concert this year at the Glastonbury Festival in England and an original painting of Wilson’s car by artist Bill Patterson.
Rahal’s helmet from the Sonoma race recently pre-sold for $50,000, while the helmet of Wilson’s Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay pre-sold for $24,000 at a charity event during the race weekend. The $74,000 raised from those helmets is earmarked for the Wilson fund.
Fans who sell their own Wilson-related items on eBay can designate the Graham Rahal Foundation as their chosen charity and proceeds will be donated to the Wilson Children’s Fund as well.
Those wishing to contribute directly to the Wilson Children’s Fund can do so online at http://justinwilson.co.uk/donate or by mail to: Wilson Children’s Fund, c/o Forum Credit Union, P.O. Box 50738, Indianapolis, IN 46250-0738.
2. Indy Lights Title Takes Pigot to Next Step toward Goal: The goal listed on Spencer Pigot’s biography is “to win the Indianapolis 500.” The native of Orlando, Fla., will get that opportunity next May courtesy of a $1 million Mazda scholarship awarded the champion of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
Pigot, who turns 22 on Sept. 29, earned the Indy Lights title in the series’ 30th season by sweeping the Sept. 12-13 doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The Juncos Racing driver entered the weekend six points behind front-runner Jack Harvey in the standings.
A decisive win in Race 1 on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course put Pigot eight points up on Harvey, the second-year Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian driver. The drama surrounding Race 2 dissipated early when Harvey was penalized for jumping the start and sent to the back of the field for the 38-lap finale. He finished ninth.
It is the second consecutive year that Harvey, 22, finished as Indy Lights runner-up. In 2014, he tied Gabby Chaves on points, only to lose on a tiebreak.
It also is the second consecutive year that Pigot, whose six wins this season is the most since Alex Lloyd’s eight in his 2007 Indy Lights championship season, has claimed a Mazda Road to Indy series title with Juncos Racing. He won the Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires title in 2014.
“It’s been a great year. We came out of the gate strong with a couple of podium finishes and then struggled at a few places, but that’s to be expected with a new team and new driver,” said Pigot, referring to the fact he and the team moved up to Indy Lights together this year. “Every day after a difficult weekend, we would put our head down and come back. I thanked the team for never giving up and never losing trust and faith in me and always working together.”
The million-dollar Mazda scholarship provides the Indy Lights champ at least a three-race Verizon IndyCar Series package, including an entry in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
In qualifying for Race 1, Max Chilton’s quick lap of 1 minute, 14.2329 seconds broke the Indy Lights track record at Laguna Seca set by Tony Kanaan on Sept. 7, 1997, on his way to winning the series title by four points over Helio Castroneves.
“I think it’s more impressive for Kanaan that he held it that whole way,” said Chilton, who completed his maiden Indy Lights season with Carlin. “That deserves more credit. I’ve just come and stolen it with more technology.”
3. Pro Mazda’s Urrutia Is Uruguay’s First Motorsports Champion: When Santiago Urrutia finished second in Race 1 of the Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at Laguna Seca, he became Uruguay’s first motorsports champion. The clincher came a day after marking the 16th anniversary of the death of countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a practice crash Sept. 11, 1999, during the CART race weekend on the same Laguna Seca road course.
Urrutia, who wore a special helmet design in tribute to Rodriguez, will receive a Mazda Road to Indy scholarship of $590,300 to advance to Indy Lights in 2016.
“It is special to win the championship at this track,” Urrutia said. “I’m sure ‘Gonza’ was here today. He is a hero in Uruguay; he’s my hero, too. I am grateful for everything he did for the sport in Uruguay.
“We are only three million people and he worked hard to get to Indy car (racing),” Urrutia added. “I am giving the helmet to his foundation in Uruguay and I hope to one day be the second driver from Uruguay to race in (an) Indy car.”
Urrutia, who started and finished second in Race 1 to Garrett Grist, clinched the title when rival Neil Alberico spun at the exit of the racetrack’s signature “Corkscrew” and stopped on the right-hand side of the course. The DNF made the results of Race 2 on Sept. 13 irrelevant to the championship.
“I can’t explain how happy I am,” Urrutia said. “This is not only work this year with Team Pelfrey but last year and the past years. I just have to say thanks to everyone.”
Grist, 20, of Grimsby, Ontario, made it a weekend victory sweep when he led Urrutia across the finish line by 0.7873 of a second in Race 2. Grist moved from seventh in the standings to third with the sweep, which also gave Juncos Racing the team championship.
4. Jamin Stamps USF2000 Title Run with Double Win: Nico Jamin led the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda championship heading into the doubleheader race weekend Sept. 12-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the 19-year-old Frenchman made sure there was no doubt he would leave with the title.
Jamin won both races in his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entry to finish 2015 with a dominant 10 victories in the 16 races – including the final six in a row. The championship earns Jamin, now living in Florida, a Mazda scholarship worth more than $381,000 to graduate to Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.
“(The championship) means everything to me, and thanks to Mazda and the prize money I’ll have the chance to keep racing in the U.S. next year and step up in the Mazda Road to Indy,” he said. “It’s been an incredible year. I knew coming to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing would be a huge help for me as I tried to fight for the championship. They are the best guys; they made my job so much easier.”
Jamin didn’t discount skipping Pro Mazda and moving straight to Indy Lights – the top rung of developmental ladder just below the Verizon IndyCar Series – if an opportunity arises. He set USF2000 records with 15 podium finishes and 12 pole positions this season.
“I didn’t think I would dominate,” he said. “The competition this year has been so strong. Even if I got poles and wins, every race the competition has been so tight and close. It wasn’t easy at all.”
5. Grace Autosport’s Paretta Named ‘Game Changer’: Grace Autosport team principal Beth Paretta has been named one of Sports Business Journal’s “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business” and will be honored as part of its 2015 class of 36 honorees on Sept. 17.
Paretta is the former motorsports director for Dodge and its SRT brand, where she helped steer the company to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with Penske Racing and the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans title with the factory SRT Motorsports program. She announced in May plans for Grace Autosport, which looks to compete in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 with driver Katherine Legge and women in leadership roles throughout the organization.
The Sports Business Journal “Game Changer” award was established in 2010 and has been presented to women sports professionals from varying realms of the industry, telling the stories of women who contribute to the success of the sports industry. Allison Melangton, the senior vice president of events at Hulman Motorsports, was honored in 2012 in her former role as leader at Indiana Sports Corp.